Why Isn’t Remote Work Common in the Bay Area?

As working remotely especially as a developer has become easier over time, I still see a lack of any real remote work in the Bay area. Despite a very expensive living expenses, office space, and almost zero unemployment among developers, companies rarely seem to consider remote work. I assumed as the demand for developers intensified we’d see a corresponding interest in adding remote workers to teams or even going fully remote, especially with companies like 37 Signals and others paving the way.

The typical Bay area company is looking for on-site talent despite the cost and difficulty of recruiting. With over 20 years of experience now I acknowledge it’s nice to have a team co-located, but certainly not at the expense of having a good team. There are some incidental communication and collaboration benefits of working side by side in a room with a team, but many of these same benefits can be mimicked using technology. Some of the tools that are commonplace, cheap, or free are:

  • Remote Pairing Tools (ScreenHero, tmux, VNC, Skype in a pinch)
  • Hosted Project Trackers (Pivotal, Trello)
  • Source Control with built in Code Reviews (github, gutbucket)
  • Issue Trackers (ZenDesk, Redline)
  • Video Calls (Skype)
  • Shared chat platforms (Slack, HipChat, Campfire)

So why are we still largely living in the working experiences of the 1990s?

One response to “Why Isn’t Remote Work Common in the Bay Area?”

  1. Mark says:

    Because face to face communication is really more effective than electronic communication. Electronic communication doesn’t yet share real human emotion. Slack as useful as it is doesn’t share everything that is going on.

    Dispersed teams can become high performing but it is usually much slower and much harder.

    If Google et al had the data and tools to support regular remote work it would be the norm.

    I don’t imagine the change will happen in my lifetime.

    Cheers
    Mark